Throw-aways a deadly diet for birds


CELIA Furt has been “horrified” by the cast-offs being thrown to seagulls at Hastings.

While on one of her regular trips “to say hi to the pelicans” near the boat ramp, Ms Furt’s attention was drawn to a group of seagulls feeding in the grass.

She discovered they were eating loaves of mouldy bread.

“People still think that feeding seagulls, pigeons and other birds, is good for them. They think that they are feeding them but, instead, they are killing them,” Ms Furt said.

“If they want to feed birds, they must only feed them what’s right for them, what they can digest and it’s not human food waste.

Human bread is poison to any bird, as they cannot digest it, it stays in their throats and crops and they die horribly.”

Ms Furt filled two rubbish bags with the 10 mouldy loaves.

A photographer, Ms Furt also took pictures of the seagulls and crows “fighting for a hamburger cover” outside the towns McDonalds outlet.

Again, she felt compelled to pick up the rubbish that was not suitable food for birds.

Ms Furt hopes her pictures and story will make people realise “that feeding the birds with human food is bad for them … we need to be a lot more careful about what we do with rubbish”.

First published in the Western Port News – 24 February 2021

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Joe Biden travels to Texas amid recovery effort from deadly winter storm


President Joe Biden heard firsthand from Texans impacted by this month”s extreme winter weather on Friday and pledged to stick with them “for the long haul” as he made his first trip to a major disaster area since he took office.

Biden was briefed by emergency officials and thanked workers for doing “God’s work”. He promised the federal government will be there for Texans as they try to recover, not just from the historic storm but also the public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“When a crisis hits our states, like the one that hit Texas, it’s not a Republican or Democrat that’s hurting,” Biden said. “It’s our fellow Americans that are hurting and it’s our job to help everyone in need”.

With tens of thousands of Houston area residents without safe water, local officials told Biden that many are still struggling. While he was briefed, first lady Jill Biden joined an assembly line of volunteers packing boxes of quick oats, juice, and other food at the Houston Food Bank, where he arrived later.

The president’s first stop was the Harris County Emergency Operations Center for a briefing from acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton and state and local emergency management officials.

More than a million still boiling water

Texas was hit particularly hard by the St Valentine’s weekend storm that battered multiple states. Unusually frigid conditions led to widespread power outages and frozen pipes that burst and flooded homes. Millions of residents lost heat and running water.

At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm and, although the weather has returned to more normal temperatures, more than 1 million residents are still under orders to boil water before drinking it.

“The president has made very clear to us that in crises like this, it is our duty to organise prompt and competent federal support to American citizens, and we have to ensure that bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way,” said Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, who accompanied Biden to Houston.

Biden was joined for much of his visit by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Senator John Cornyn, both Republicans, four Democratic Houston-area members of Congress and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

The president also stopped by a mass coronavirus vaccination centre at NRG Stadium that is run by the federal government. Biden commemorated the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination since he took office on Thursday, halfway toward his goal of 100 million shots by his 100th day in office. That celebration followed a moment of silence to mark the passage earlier this week of 500,000 US deaths blamed on the disease.

Democrat Biden suggested that he and Republicans Abbott and Cornyn could find common cause in getting Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“We disagree on plenty of things,” Biden said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are plenty of things we can work on together. And one of them is represented right here today, the effort to speed up vaccinations”.

Texas’ other US senator, Ted Cruz, an ally of former President Donald Trump and one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who had objected to Congress certifying Biden’s victory, was in Florida Friday addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Cruz, who has been criticised for taking his family to Cancun, Mexico, while millions of Texans shivered in unheated homes, later said the trip was a mistake, but he made light of the controversy on Friday. “Orlando is awesome,” he said to laughs and hoots. “It’s not as nice as Cancun. But it’s nice.”

At the peak of the storm, more than 1.4 million residents were without power and 3.5 million were under boil-water notices in Houston’s Harris County, the nation’s third-largest county.

Debate over Texas’ energy supply

The post-storm debate in Texas has centred on the state maintaining its own electrical grid and its lack of better storm preparation, including weather-proofing key infrastructure. Some state officials initially blamed the blackouts on renewable energy even though Texas relies heavily on oil and gas.

In Washington DC, Biden’s climate advisor said the deadly winter storm was a “wake-up call” for the United States to build energy systems that can withstand extreme weather linked to climate change.

“We need systems of energy that are reliable and resilient,” Gina McCarthy said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The White House said Biden’s purpose in visiting was to support, not scold.

Biden was bent on asking Texans “what do you need, how can I help you more,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “And what can we get more for you from the federal government”.

Biden has declared a major disaster in Texas and asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to aid the recovery. The FEMA has sent emergency generators, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals, and blankets.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said in an interview that he didn’t know what more the federal government could do to help because the failures were at the state level. But Henry, a Republican who is the highest county official in the suburban Houston county, said that if Biden “thinks it’s important to visit, then come on down”.

Biden wanted to make the trip last week, but said at the time that he held back because he didn’t want his presence and entourage to detract from the recovery effort.

Houston also was the destination for Trump’s first presidential visit to a disaster area in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding that August.

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Deadly funny duo to rock big top



By Luke Voogt “Deadly funny” duo Shiralee Hood and Kevin Kropinyeri are set to rock the big top at Rippleside Park as live comedy returns to Geelong next weekend. Noongar-Kurnai-Gunditjmara comedian Hood was thrilled to get back onstage in front of a live crowd last November after several months imagining the laughter in her head during online shows. “Doing it straight to camera with nobody laughing was a really good lesson,” she told the Independent. “I would have to hear it my head and react appropriately. “I was lucky enough to be involved in the Melbourne Fringe gala just before Christmas, in a big hall with everyone in the audience 1.5 metres apart. “It was fantastic to do it to real-life laughter.” The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Hood when organisers cancelled the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Hood won the festival’s Deadly Funny competition in 2009 with judges enjoying her “outrageously funny” take on life. “It was sad at first when we heard that the comedy festival was cancelled,” she said. “It was a big shock and I realised, ‘this pandemic is real.’ “I missed flying around in 2020 but it’s so good to be back out. I’ve been lucky enough to get a few audiences since COVID but this is going to be fantastic.” No doubt the pandemic will provide some new material for Hood, who loves “healing” through comedy and having a laugh in horrible circumstances, like when her front teeth got knocked out by a swinging hills hoist. “I love to do comedy about real life,” she said. “I’ve done comedy about COVID, the social climate and just being a human and a survivor and having a bit of a laugh along the way. “I like hard comedy that’s not always easy to talk about. I like talking about things that have happened and healing through laughter. “From everyday racism to domestic violence and growing up in a low socio-economic neighbourhood in a big family. “Because I did the comedy about it that, it was kind of healing.” Recently, she took aim at young people’s obsession with their devices, in Rise of the Planet of the Apps in her own “edgy, cheeky and hilarious” way. She joked about throwing teenagers mobile phones up trees to get them climbing and seeing the world around them. “That’s the only way they’re connecting with nature these days,” she said. She often delves into the political realm too, with her own unique definition of politics: “Poly means many. And ticks: bloodsucking mongrels,” she said. Joining Hood under the big top is Ngarrindjeri man and long-time comedic partner Kevin Kropinyeri, from the intimate community of Raukkan, South Australia. “I’ve done quite a few shows with him,” she said. “He’s hilarious. He’s always pushing the line.” Kropinyeri has sold out crowds throughout Australia and beyond. With high energy and silly onstage antics, he mixes keen observational stand-up with ridiculous physical comedy. His comedy invites both Aboriginal and non-aboriginal audiences to share his journey, his culture and his life. Kropinyeri’s last tour of the UK with the Aboriginal Comedy Allstars saw him smash the scene with five-star reviews and sold-out crowds. “He’s great to watch even though I’ve seen it 100 times,” Hood said. She encouraged locals to head down to the big top for the show beginning 6.30pm at Rippleside Park on February 7. The one-hour show also features 45 minutes of pre-show entertainment by local slide guitarist Tim Hulsman. “I’m looking forward to catching up with Geelong locals and having a good laugh,” Hood said. “A lot of people have a good laugh and a gut laugh with me.” The show is part of Geelong Arts Centre’s summer sessions featuring artists, circus acts and comedians such as Tommy Little, Clare Bowditch, Cal Wilson, Claire Hooper, Jude Perl, Meow Meow, Silvie Paladino and more. Tickets: geelongartscentre.org.au/whats-on

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Police conduct hours before deadly townhouse fire incident to be reviewed


Mr Gollschewski will consider the history of police interaction in the incident and will establish a timeline of when police spoke with Ms Langham.

He said there was also a focus on the call made on Sunday night.

Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said most Greater Brisbane residents were following the rules.

Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said most Greater Brisbane residents were following the rules.Credit:Jono Searle/Getty Images

“I can say with certainty that I am confident that the response on that night was as it should have been based on the information that was available at that time,” he said.

“But the question we have, of course, is what other information is available and what other information was in our system and indeed in any other systems across the nation that may have assisted us to make other decisions on that night.”

Mr Gollschewski said the Logan district had one of the state’s worst records when it came to domestic and family violence cases.

“Despite Not Now, Not Ever, despite what we’ve learnt and seen in other instances such as Tara Brown and Hannah Clarke and her children, here we are again, where a person who is a victim of violence has needed to be protected and we have not been able to protect her,” he said.

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“We are not satisfied with that and we will be relentless in trying to find out what happened and make sure this type of thing does not happen.”

Owing to the coronial investigation, Mr Gollschewski would not answer specific questions relating to what police knew about Ms Langham and the domestic violence history.

Logan Chief Superintendent Brian Swan said the examination of the scene had been finalised and Mr Hely’s vehicle, which was found at a nearby shopping precinct, was returned to his family.

Superintendent Swan said police had doorknocked the area and CCTV from surrounding streets was being reviewed.

“We continue to put together evidence for the coroner to consider and we also wish to reiterate our appeal for any person with any information about Doreen and Gary and their relationship to contact police,” he said.

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Deadly inspirations – What their chosen reading says about America’s far-right | United States


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US Senator Ted Cruz says it was a mistake to holiday in Mexico while Texas faced a deadly winter storm


US Senator Ted Cruz has flown into a storm of criticism after leaving his home state of Texas in the grip of a deadly deep freeze, for a family holiday jaunt to the Mexican resort of Cancun he said he took to please his young daughters.

“It was obviously a mistake. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it,” the 50-year-old Republican told reporters as he returned to Houston on Thursday.

Mr Cruz said he had planned to stay through the weekend but had second thoughts “almost the moment I sat down on the plane”.

In text messages obtained by American Bridge, a Democratic political group, Cruz’s wife Heidi asked neighbours whether they wanted to accompany the family to Cancun.

“Anyone can or want to leave for the week?” she wrote, noting that rooms at the city’s Ritz Carlton cost “$309 plus tax.”

With millions of Texans grappling with the fallout from a ferocious winter storm, Mr Cruz, who ran for president in 2016 and is viewed as a presidential hopeful in 2024, faced condemnation after photos on social media showed him in an airport line, in a passenger lounge, aboard an airliner and leaving Cancun airport in Mexico.

Some critics slammed his comments blaming his daughters, aged 10 and 12, for his decision to visit the resort, where the weather was a balmy 26 degrees Celsius on Thursday evening.

The Texas Democratic Party called on him to resign.

Demonstrators stand in front of US Senator Ted Cruz’s home demanding his resignation, Thursday, Feb 18, 2021, in Houston

Houston Chronicle

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, speaking before Mr Cruz was spotted at Cancun airport, said tongue-in-cheek: “I don’t have any updates on the exact location of Senator Ted Cruz, nor does anyone at the White House.”

Millions of Texans remained paralysed by power and water outages after a winter storm and freezing temperatures that hampered efforts to restore full power.

“We need to be here, we need to be in the battle, we need to be helping Texans,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told MSNBC when asked about Mr Cruz.

In December, Mr Cruz criticised Austin, Texas, Mayor Stephen Adler on Twitter for taking a trip to Mexico in December while telling others not to travel during the pandemic.

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The Hanau Protocols: Aftermath of a Deadly Racist Attack






The storefront on Krämerstrasse where the families meet in Hanau.



The storefront on Krämerstrasse where the families meet in Hanau.


Foto: Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL

† Nesar Hashemi, 21

Brother Etris, 24

Mother Najiba, 45

Sister Saida, 25

Father Mir Salam, 57





† Ferhat Unvar: T-shirt



† Ferhat Unvar: T-shirt


Foto: Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL

† Vili-Viorel Păun, 22

Father Niculescu, 45

Mother Iulia, 42

† Kaloyan Velkov, 33

Cousin Vaska Zlateva, 35

† Hamza Kurtović, 22

Sister Ajla, 25

Father Armin, 46

Mother Dijana, 47

† Mercedes Kierpacz, 35

Son Colorado, 17

Mother Sophia, 60

Father Filip Goman, 57

† Ferhat Unvar, 24

Brother Mirza, 8





At the cemetery



At the cemetery


Foto: Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL





† Sedat Gürbüz: Towel



† Sedat Gürbüz: Towel


Foto: Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL

† Sedat Gürbüz, 29

Father Salahettin, 56

Mother Emiş, 51

† Gökhan Gültekin, 37

Nephew Mert, 26

Mother Hüsna, 67

Brother Çetin, 46





† Fatih Saraçoǧlu: Handwerkerhandschuhe



† Fatih Saraçoǧlu: Handwerkerhandschuhe


Foto: Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL

† Fatih Saraçoǧlu, 34

Girlfriend Diana Sokoli, 33





Piter Minnemann



Piter Minnemann


Foto: Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL





Piter Minnemann, Kim Schröder with Dario, Muhammed Beyazkendir



Piter Minnemann, Kim Schröder with Dario, Muhammed Beyazkendir


Foto: Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL





† Vili-Viorel Păun: Amulet



† Vili-Viorel Păun: Amulet

Milos Djuric / DER SPIEGEL


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US weather: Twenty dead and millions without power as deadly freeze hits southern states | US News


A winter storm sweeping across the US has left millions without power and killed at least 20.

A rare bout of freezing weather has knocked out power, shut down shops, cancelled flights and closed schools across large parts of the country, including New England and the Deep South, with more freezing temperatures to come.

Several cities experienced record lows. Minnesota recorded -39C (-38F) and Sioux Falls in South Dakota, dropped to minus -26C (-14.8F). Omaha, Nebraska experienced -30C (-22F), its coldest temperature for 25 years.

More freezing temperatures are forecast, with wind-chill warnings reaching from Canada into Mexico.

Image:
A sign warns motorists after a sudden heavy bout of snow in Madison, Wisconsin
James Derrick peeks out of his tent during record breaking cold weather in Oklahoma City
Image:
A man peeks out of his tent during record-breaking cold weather in Oklahoma City

The US National Weather Service said over 100 million Americans are currently under winter storm warnings.

Texas has been hit particularly badly with the temperature plunging to -22C (-7.6F) on Tuesday, compared to the usual February average of between 20C (68F) and 24C (75F) in central and southern areas.

Three people died, and 10 were injured, after a tornado spawned by the storm, hit a seaside town in North Carolina and four family members died in a Houston-area house fire while using a fireplace to stay warm.

Death were also reported in Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana. In all, at least 20 were reported.

Other causes included car crashes and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The freezing weather also threatened to disrupt the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, with the government warning delays in vaccine shipments were likely.

On Tuesday evening President Joe Biden spoke to governors of the impacted states and pledged emergency federal support.

The worst power outages were in Texas, where Mr Biden declared a federal emergency on Monday, affecting more than two million homes and businesses.

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A slippery slope: Man battles to clear ice

More than 250,000 people also lost power across parts of Appalachia, and another 200,000 were without electricity following an ice storm in northwest Oregon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports.

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids.

The storm reached further south to Mexico where four million lost power.

The outages forced a Texas county to scramble to administer more than 8,000 doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine after a public health facility lost power early Monday and its backup generator also failed, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

County officials distributed the doses that could have spoiled at three hospitals, Rice University and the county jail.

Texas officials said more than 400,000 doses due Tuesday, will not arrive until at least Wednesday because of the storm.

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The seven deadly sins to shun from your eCommerce shipping solutions


We all know about the seven deadly sins – lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed, anger and pride. In the eCommerce world, there are also seven big no no’s to dodge when it comes to your small business and shipping solutions.

Australian small businesses and independent retailers need to get a firm grip on the seven-common eCommerce transporting traps and transform them into winning formulas for shipping success.

1. One platform, multiple issues

As a small business, it is fundamental that you don’t get stuck selling on one platform or marketplace only.

Be sure you have a multi-channel model for your small business. By having only one platform, you may do reasonably well, but you won’t take advantage of the full opportunities available to you and the exceptional growth potential for your business that multi-channel offers.

2. Align your brand with the right carrier

Another deadly sin when it comes to shipping is NOT doing enough research in finding the ideal carrier. Be diligent and thorough in your research in the industry and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions.  

Align yourself with providers that project the same standards as your small business and also use a variety of carriers to ship your products. That way, you get the best bang for your buck and a broader range of services you can offer your customers.

3. Get to know the basics of shipping in Australia

Your small business is bound for challenges if you don’t have a good understanding of the three basics of shipping – expectations, methods in calculating shipping costs and packaging. They all lay the foundation to ensure you save on shipping in many different areas. 

4. Packing for success

Another expensive shipping faux par is getting the wrong product and having it packaged incorrectly. 

Over the years, we’ve come across many customers that have sourced the wrong products as well as not spending time researching how they could ship the goods easily or cost-effectively before starting their eCommerce business. 

5. The game changers

There are two game-changing areas of a logistic operation when shipping.

Using shipping apps and an eCommerce platform which are suitable for eCommerce businesses is fundamental. Without either, you will forever be working in the business and not on your business. Your ability to scale and become a high growth success story is limited and also unlikely.

6. Getting ready to ship

Coming down to basics, businesses often don’t see what is right in front of them as obvious obstacles to overcome. The importance of the pickup address, for example, should never be overlooked or undervalued.

This leads
to so many problems from our experience with either missed or late pickups with
many couriers. If you’re at a point where your small business is sending decent
volumes out each day, considering a 3PL solution is also a smart move in
removing high fixed costs from your business and allowing you more time to work
on your business and grow faster.

7. Customer service is king

This may
seem obvious for some, but for others, having a delivery arrive in bad shape
and late is one of the worst sins to commit.

It all
starts and ends with customer service.

Spend the time to find a shipping provider that can become an experienced partner for your small business, that will assist you during the ongoing shipping issues you will experience during your journey.

It’s all about being reliable, authentic and transparent with your customers. By investing time in quashing the seven deadly sins of shipping, you will have a greater chance of success and longevity.

Steve Visic, Director of Sales, Smart Send



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Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial starts with graphic video of deadly Capitol assault


The historic second impeachment trial of Donald Trump opened in the US Senate on Tuesday local time, with prosecutors vowing to win a conviction based on the “cold, hard facts” of the January storming of the US Capitol.

Kicking off with days of argument on whether Mr Trump incited insurrection on January 6 – the trial charges into unprecedented constitutional territory as the first of a former president.

House of Representatives Democrats serving as prosecutors opened their case by showing video of Trump supporters violently overwhelming police at the Capitol in the 6 January attack after he had encouraged people in a speech to “fight like hell” to overcome his 3 November election defeat.

The video showed Trump backers throwing down barriers, hitting police officers and at one point telling one: “We outnumber you a million to one out here.”

“Our case is based on cold, hard facts. It’s all about the facts,” lead House prosecutor Jamie Raskin told the trial.

Inside the ornate building, Democratic prosecutors will lay out a case heavily supported by video evidence that Mr Trump deliberately stoked rage over his November reelection loss to Joe Biden, fed the country lies that the vote was rigged, then incited the Capitol riot.

“It’s our solemn constitutional duty to conduct a fair and honest impeachment trial of the charges against former president Mr Trump – the gravest charges ever brought against a president of the United States in American history,” Democratic Majority leader Chuck Schumer declared as proceedings got underway.

The trial will make uncomfortable viewing for senators, including the many Republicans making clear they will not vote to convict Mr Trump, but who had to flee to safety when the violent crowd surged through the Capitol that day.

The United States Capitol Building was breached by thousands of protesters during a rally in support of Donald Trump.

STRMX via AAP

Outside, thousands of National Guard troops deployed in the aftermath of the debacle continue to patrol, while hastily thrown up fences barricade the area from ordinary Americans – visible proof that the aftershocks of the Mr Trump era continue to rumble.

Mr Trump becomes the first president ever to face two impeachment trials – he was acquitted in 2020 of abuse of power – as well as the first in history to be tried after leaving office.

Mr Trump’s legal team is basing its case largely on the procedural argument that a former president cannot be tried, calling the Senate trial “absurd.”

They also argue that whatever Mr Trump said during his 6 January rally is protected by the constitutional right to free speech and did not amount to ordering the assault on Congress.

A second acquittal is all but certain for Mr Trump, who is holed up in his luxury Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and, after being barred from Twitter, has spent the weeks since leaving office in near silence.

Democrats hold 50 of the 100 Senate seats and Vice President Kamala Harris is able to cast a tie-breaking vote. But it would take a two-thirds majority for a conviction, meaning at least 17 Republican senators would have to join.

Polarised country

With the country at its most polarised in at least half a century, the impeachment trial risks becoming a new flashpoint.

Amped up on four years of Mr Trump’s populist claims to be fighting for ordinary people against the elites, huge numbers of Republican voters continue to support the ex-president, pushing their party ever further to the right.

However, Democrats are equally energised and polls show that a small majority of the country overall believes Mr Trump deserves conviction. An Ipsos/ABC News poll found 56 per cent back this, while a Gallup poll found 52 per cent support.

It’s not clear yet how long the trial will last but it will be shorter than the three-week marathon of Mr Trump’s first impeachment and could end as soon as next week.

First up will be up to four hours of debate, followed by a vote, on the constitutionality of trying an ex-president. This will almost certainly be just a formality as the Democrats have enough votes, but it will give early indication of how open Republicans are to the case at all.

The main part of the trial will start Wednesday, with each side having 16 hours to present oral arguments.

Senators, who are the jurors, will then question the opposing legal teams.

A majority vote will be needed if either side wants to call witnesses. Mr Trump, however, has already refused an invitation to testify.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst told AFP that he was ready to “listen,” but spoke for many others on his side when he added: “I don’t believe this to be constitutional. So we’re going through an exercise that I don’t believe meets the intent of our founders.”

Joe Biden above the fray

Mr Biden, who succeeded Mr Trump on 20 January, is attempting to stay above the fray.

Daily, the White House is sending a message that the Democrat is focused instead on the fragile economy and the desperate effort to vaccinate Americans against the still out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated on Tuesday that Mr Biden is “going to wait for the Senate to determine the outcome of this.”

“He’s not going to comment on the back and forth arguments, nor is he watching them,” Ms Psaki told reporters.

If Mr Trump were convicted, the Senate would then hold a simple-majority vote on barring him from future public office.

But even if the impeachment trial ends in acquittal, calls to punish Mr Trump for his behavior will continue, including possibly a push for a bipartisan vote of censure.

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